Computer Science Teacher
Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

May, 2010

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Interesting Links 31 May 2010


    It’s Memorial Day in the US and today we remember and honor the men and women who fought and died for our country. My Dad is a World War II veteran and has been relating some of his stories from that war. A lot went on and in his earlier days he never shared this much.  I’m glad to know it and it really brings the sacrifices the military has made over the generations real to me.

    Most people in the US have a holiday today and so do I. I wanted to keep to my usually blogging schedule though. So here now some updates and interesting links.

    From the Kodu team via @mmaclaurin and @scoy6 I learn that there is a new build of Kodu out with PC updates.  Information on their blog at PC build 1.0.48 is live! Get it here: Kodu Game Lab - Technical Preview

    From Mark Drapeau (AKA @cheeky_geekyShuffleboard: A Windows Phone 7 Sample Game XNA based and a preview of an upcoming Coding 4 Fun article.

    danah boyd (@zephoria) had an interesting post titled: Deception + fear + humiliation != education about an ACLU complaint regarding a police officer "safety" lesson) We need to teach students how to be safe on the Internet but we really need to make sure we are honest about it. And it can’t be all about fear and humiliation.

    I really liked this post by Garth on his CS Education blog - Programmers need to [be] smart and stupid, at the same time. “I keep telling my kids if you are going to write code you have to design smart and code stupid” An interesting perspective on coding and design and getting the messages through to students.

    From @innovativeteach and the UK Education team a new Blog Post - 'Bing - Visual Search, teaching questioning skills

    Don’t confuse visual search with image search, visual search is about finding information using images rather than a keyword. imageBing has number of visual data collections, some of which are ideal for creating learning opportunities for pupils, especially in developing questioning and analytical skills.

    To use Visual search, go to and click Visual Search on the menu on the left-hand side



    My friend and go-worker Randy Guthre (@randyguthrie) wrote a new blog post: - Using Self-Marketing to Maximize Out-of-Class Project Impact on your Resume Out of class projects can be a very powerful in getting job interviews and actual jobs. Students can use social networking and other tools to leverage these projects to market themselves. Randy tells how it can work.

    Plural Sight Online is offering their training at half off for educators on their Pluralsight On-Demand! .NET Training Courses. Plural Sight is one of the top training organizations. How good? Well Microsoft frequently hires them to train Microsoft employees. If you are interested visit their web site and contact their marketing people for details.

    An interesting story on a blog post by Cameron Evans, the national technology officer and CTO for Microsoft Education in the US, called PowerPoint Inspires a High School Student to Computer Science This is the story of how one application was an inspiration to one person to enter the computer science field. Pretty cool story really.

    RT @TeachTec is offering more Tech Tips to close-out the school year. See his post  of the Top 8 tips

    From @Safer_Online Who asks “Holding an online safety event? Microsoft offers FREE resources you can download and use.”

    BTW I finally made someone's top 20 blog list - The Top 20 Teacher Blogs Apparently this and several dollars can get me a cup of coffee. If I drank coffee that is. :-) Still it always feels good to be noticed and there are some really great blogs on that  list.

  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    Microsoft at ISTE 2010


    Well the schedule for Microsoft sessions and events at ISTE 2010 in Denver is up. And I’m excited about it! Well of course I love ISTE conferences anyway. What is Microsoft up to?

    Learning sessions

    • Breakfast and lunch presentations (Hyatt Regency Denver, across the street from the Convention Center) For an in-depth learning experience, join us for a breakfast or lunch presentation, enjoy a meal, and see a demo presentation by one of our education technology specialists. Space is limited. See schedule
    • Special topics: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) educator and Microsoft Live@edu sessions (Hyatt Regency Denver) Learn about two of the hottest topics in education: Engaging students in STEM education and Cloud services for K-12 institutions. See schedule
    • Hands-on classroom sessions in our booth (#1354). Participate in a 30-minute, hands-on session, and bring a new project idea or skill to your classroom this fall. See schedule

    WorldWide Telescope planetarium

    View the universe as never before. University of Washington astronomy students will guide you through a planetarium right in our booth. Spaces are limited, so come to the booth early to reserve your viewing time.

    I’ll be directly involved in two sessions of

    Game development = Real computer science
    Featuring: Microsoft Visual C# Programming and Microsoft XNA Game Studio

    Monday, 4:00–5:00 P.M.  at the Hyatt Regency in room Agate AB
    Wednesday, 2:00–3:00 P.M. at the Hyatt Regency in room Agate AB

    I expect to be around the booth for some sessions there and for some of the other sessions and events highlighted by SIGCT (See Getting Ready for ISTE – SIGCT Recommendations) I hope to see you there!


  • Computer Science Teacher - Thoughts and Information from Alfred Thompson

    And here a miracle happens


    I was reading a post by Mark Guzdial yesterday (In Praise of Drill and Practice) and was struck by this passage:

    […] we really don’t have much for CS learners before throwing them in front of a speeding interpreter or compiler.  A blank editor window is a mighty big fill-in-the-blank question. We need some low cognitive load starting materials, even for the high ability learners.

    Hélène Martin adds in the comments:

    we owe it to our students to provide early emphasis on computational building blocks rather than jumping straight to high degrees of abstraction. My favorite example: the general concept of iteration is baffling for lots of students and it’s an important tool for writing any sort of program. Instructors often shortchange students by casually presenting iteration as a syntactic element and then assuming its understanding. There’s too much going on in a simple loop to do that (or recursion or any other way of repeating stuff).

    This is pretty much what happens. We hand students some tools, explain what they are for and then cut students lose to create something new. It is sort of like handing students some hand tools, giving them some simple lessons and then asking them to create a new chair. We basically expect a miracle to happen in the process.

    We don’t do with with other subjects. Take writing for example. We start with letters and move to words. We don’t jump from learning individual words to writing novels. We step into simple sentences, more complex sentences, paragraphs, the essay, and so on. Little by little we build up to more abstract concepts and their execution. And yet we assume that if a student knows how a loop works in theory we can jump into “write a program to print out the song 100 bottles of soda.” We’d like to think that a good student can put the pieces together but can they? Typically some can and many work on code by trial and error and eventually get closer and closer. All the while, they learn bad habits.

    We move to quickly I think. I believe I have been guilty of this myself. It’s something I need to work on I believe. And something that will influence any future textbook writing I should find myself doing. But what would that mean? I think we need more exercises. Not complex tasks, though there is a place for those, but simple tasks that reinforce the concepts being learned and gradually develop the ability to string abstractions together to build new more complex solutions.

    Maybe also design recipes that let students start with something simple and gradually build it up to something more complex. I have been looking at Lynn Langit and Llewellyn Falco’s Small Basic recipes as samples of how things might work. I really like the step by step iterative process of “growing” a program. There are probably more small exercises that can be created though. It would be helpful to collect some for use. But the key, I believe, is to make haste slowly. By slowing things down and spending more time on really understanding the fundamentals and really understanding the software design process we should be able to save time on actually writing the code.

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